My days are filled with communication distractions. Like many of you, I’m bombarded by messages via email, text, and phone. Even spoken conversations are often focused on a quick exchange of information before moving on to the next scheduled thing.
These experiences have motivated me to dig deeper for a better way of engaging with others: In a world full of noise, how do we invite meaningful conversations, the conversations that matter? And the follow-up question: Why are these types of conversations important? For human connection? For getting things done? For leading through social complexity?
I think the answers to the latter is yes, yes, and yes.
When the City of Fargo decided to replace an old tank with a new water tower in north Fargo, it hoped the tower would serve as more than mere infrastructure. It also wanted the structure to serve as a canvas for public art.
The goal was to support community-based design, something created with people rather than for them. During a competitive process, the city’s Arts and Culture Commission selected Reach Partners to facilitate the community outreach component of the project. Black Ink Creative Partners was selected to render the design.
I often struggle to know whether to say “yes” or “no” to a new experience. Even armed with details and expectations, I never truly know whether something will turn into an opportunity or an obligation.
In addition, I value clarity and purpose. When expectations are vague, I hesitate.
And yet, sometimes ignoring the small voice in the back of my head that says “no” leads to valuable and meaningful connections. Sometimes my curiosity wins and I’m learning to pay attention.
I hate puzzles.
Maybe it’s because I’ve always been frustrated by them.
I remember once, as a child, trying to finish the puzzle of a hot air balloon. It was beautiful: a brilliant blue sky and the balloon was distinguished with bright colors of the rainbow. But it took forever to complete. The puzzle sat on the dining room table and I heard my mom tell more than one guest that they needed to place a piece before they left.
I might have passed on my dislike of puzzles to my kids. One Christmas, I had a photo of the two of them turned into a puzzle. The pieces sat in a box for nearly two years before I made myself put it together. The puzzle wasn’t complicated; it was 25 pieces. But it wasn’t easy and certainly not fun. I threw it away.
During the pandemic, I watched friends on Facebook safely exchange puzzles as their families used time together to puzzle (is puzzle even a verb?!). Yuck. Not me. Not my family.
And yet, I solve puzzles at work all the time. Every time I piece together details of an event or a project, it’s a puzzle. Only recently did I figure out the difference.
If you feel overwhelmed by decision-making, you’re not alone.
Each adult makes nearly 35,000 conscious decisions each day, according to various researchers. Some decisions – like where to purchase your morning coffee – only impact us personally. Decisions in the workplace, however, can create a ripple effect for employees, teams, organizations, and others.
Knowing that, it’s tempting to assume that more people should be involved in making decisions. After all, more heads are better than one, right?
You’ve probably heard the Chinese proverb: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Another way to think about it: all big and complex things start with a simple step forward.
In many situations, however, that first step might not be so simple.
You likely have your own personal list of to-dos that have been gnawing at you for what seems like forever. For whatever reason, you keep procrastinating and pushing them to the back burner.
That tendency is multiplied when you consider projects that require a team or collaborative approach. Maybe you have a list of projects that you want finished, but you never seem to have the time, energy, or organization to move them forward.
At Reach Partners we’ve seen projects fail to launch or stall because a successful start was an obstacle. Starting is harder than it looks.
The pandemic has taught us, over and over, that virtual meetings and gatherings can actually be productive, rich with human connection. We’ve also learned that meaningful virtual connections are not certain. Rather it takes intention for it to be possible.
If you’ve followed us for any length of time, you know our mantra: Intention starts with purpose. (I know. We say it all the time, (specifically here and here), but it’s true. Really.)
Do you want a meaningful virtual meeting? Start with these tips:
We at Reach Partners are big Priya Parker fans. We devoured her book “The Art of Gathering” and even attended an event curated by her.
So when Parker penned an opinion column that ran in The New York Time before Thanksgiving, we paid attention. Titled “Abandon Your Thanksgiving Script,” the column addressed the need to think differently about holiday traditions during a year when nothing has been normal.
Parker challenged her readers to think imaginatively: “That begins with shifting our attitudes from fighting the current constraints to taking inspiration from them.”
As someone who studies and designs gatherings, she most often sees two responses to constraints on gathering: cancellation and rebellion. She encourages a third option: improv.
We’ve seen this play out in our own work and experiences over the last year.
As winter settles in, we’re ready to review the piles of books that encourage us to keep learning and expanding our view of the world.
A few of our favorites – both personal and professional – right now:
Every Thanksgiving season, we take a moment to reflect on the past year. Typically, we're full of gratitude for our relationships, our work, and the world around us.
Let's be frank: the past year hasn't been easy, nor smooth. We are tired of Zoom meetings and doing most of our work remotely. We miss the days when a friendly hug was a safe way to end a conversation. Still, as we look back, we are in awe of the small (and big!) ways that gratitude has filled our days.